WASHINGTON House Democrats will investigate whether President Donald Trump’s decision to delay security assistance to Ukraine was part of a lobbying campaign to benefit him in the 2020 presidential election, potentially violating a multitude of legal and ethical rules.
Three House committees (Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Watch and Government Reform) sent letters to the White House and the State Department on Monday asking for documents indicating whether Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had attempted to ‘get Ukraine to target a 2020 presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden. All three panels announced the requests as part of a large investigation.
“The Trump administration’s decision to suspend vital security assistance to Ukraine is just the latest in a series of actions in which President Trump appears to be undermining U.S. foreign policy to appease Russia and place personal interests above the national interest, ”said the Democratic chairmen of the committees said in a joint statement.
The letters came after the Washington Post editorial board wrote that it had been “reliably told” that the Trump administration had suspended $ 250 million in US military aid to bring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to relaunch a corruption investigation into Biden and his son. A prosecutor has reportedly already investigated Biden’s son, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy company.
The committee chairs allege that Trump focused on the investigation during a phone call with Zelensky on July 25, saying Ukraine’s corruption hampered its relations with the United States. From there, Ambassador Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine, arranged a meeting between Zelensky and Giuliani. (The State Department reportedly referred to Giuliani as a “private citizen” who “does not speak for the US government.”)
Administration says delay in sending military aid to Ukraine is intended to ensure it aligns with US interests, but bipartisan pressure has been exerted for the Trump administration to end to its review of funds. In a letter last week, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, DN.Y., and senior member Michael McCaul, R-Texas, warned White House officials that the administration could violate appropriation of funding by Congress.
Monday’s letter from Engel and the other presidents warned that aid is vital in Ukraine’s defense against Russia and its proxies in the illegally occupied Ukrainian territory.
“If the president is trying to pressure Ukraine to choose between defending itself from Russian aggression without US assistance or leveraging its justice system to serve the purposes of the Trump campaign, that would represent a staggering abuse of power, a boon to Moscow and a betrayal of public trust, ”the letter read.
“The fact that the State Department apparently acted as an intermediary between President Trump’s personal lawyer and Ukrainian officials raises serious concerns that the Department is complicit in a corrupt ploy that undermines policy foreign and national security interests in favor of the president’s personal agenda. “
Joe Gould is the Congressional and Industry reporter for Defense News, covering budget and defense policy issues on Capitol Hill as well as industry news.